HYPNOSIS uses the powerful effects of suggestion to produce and modify a wide range of compelling experiences and clinical symptoms.
With its origins in Mesmerism, and later associations with mysticism, quackery, literary fiction and stage entertainment, it is understandable that formal research involving hypnosis was not always been valued or believed by mainstream science.
This however, is changing.
Recently, hypnosis has begun to attract renewed interest from cognitive and social neuroscientists interested in using hypnosis and the striking effects of hypnotic suggestion to test predictions about normal psychological functions but also to explore how simulating symptoms from clinical conditions using hypnosis may help better understand the responsible brain systems involved.
Common misconceptions about hypnosis include the belief that hypnosis is a form of sleep or that many of the striking effects produced by targeted suggestions can only be generated in hypnosis.
In fact, studies have shown that responses to the same suggestions with and without a hypnotic induction can be very similar and that difference between the two conditions is small.
Participants in hypnosis studies typically describe the perceptual and behavioural changes experienced in response to suggestion as "real" and beyond their voluntary control.
They also report these experiences as not imaginary and not simple compliance with what they think the experimenter wants to hear or had suggested.
Understandably, scepticism remains regarding the credibility of these first person reports, however, several recent studies have provided persuasive evidence for the objective "reality" of hypnotic experience, using targeted suggestions that disrupt automatic, unconscious processes over which participants are thought to have little or no control.
Many but not all people are responsive to hypnotic suggestion but only a minority are strongly responsive - which makes them good subjects for research studies.
Subjects who are highly hypnotisable are capable of experiencing short-term amnesia or fleeting hallucinations. …